Homophobia within Counselling: an evaluation of the prevalence and levels of heterosexist and homophobic attitudes amongst counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland
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BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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A number of surveys and studies have been carried out in Ireland documenting incidence of homophobia within society. A recent survey by the Sunday Times (2000) indicated definite levels of homophobia in this country. Previous research undertaken by the American Psychological Association highlighted how the therapeutic process is inevitably affected by the values and bias of the therapist. This present study examines the prevalence and levels of heterosexist and homophobic attitudes amongst counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland. A questionnaire was design to collect data on the participants' attitudes on a number of themes in relation to homosexuality. Some of these were: negative stereotyping attitudes, viewing homosexuality as psychopathologic, prejudice around lesbian and gay parenting, and using a heterosexual frame of reference for lesbian, gay and bisexual clients. The questionnaire used both forced-choice Likert scales, and some open-ended questions. A total of one hundred counsellors and psychotherapist participated in this study, representing the whole of Ireland. Responses indicated varying degrees of heterosexist and homophobic attitudes amongst the profession ranging between very high, high/moderate or low/no levels. Ones area showing the highest levels of anti-gay prejudice was in relation to adoption by same sex couples. There was, however, considerable interest in the overall topic and in the results of this study. The findings suggest that around half of the participants are at risk of providing biased or inappropriate practice with their lesbian, gay and bisexual clients. The implications of these findings indicate a need for more education and training in homosexuality on counselling training courses. There are many possible lines of research that could follow this study.